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Are Medical Professionals Immune to Addiction?


By Biju George

Psychiatric Nurse


“I will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.”

Nightingale Pledge

People with addiction seek the help of medical professionals in time of crisis. Does this mean that no medical professionals need help? The answer is they too sometimes need help. Both doctors and nurses are susceptible to drug addiction and they may even be more vulnerable than the general population. Surveys say that 15 % of medical professionals will abuse drug or alcohol some time in their career.

The research says that 8 to 15 % of the medical professionals are physically dependent to some addictive drugs. The risk is high in anaesthetic department and the emergency department as they have easy access to medicines. However, general physicians or paediatricians too can get addicted to various substances.

Why is there an increasing risk of drug abuse in medical professionals?


  • Medical professionals seem to be particularly susceptible to prescription drug abuse. This is likely because they have access to prescription products that the general population does not. The nurses usually steal prescription pads and forge their own prescriptions.
  • Medical professionals have the knowledge of drug and its effect and may feel as if they are not going to be addicted as they fully understand the effects if the medicine.
  • The medical students may be curious about the medicines and its effect and it may lead to addiction.
  • They have practice and knowledge about injections and it will help them self-administer the injections/ injectables.
  • Doctors and nurses often get more seriously ill than their patients because they take higher quality drug than other people. For example, some pain killer drugs such as fentanyl are more potent than morphine and heroin.
  • For medical professionals it is easier to hide the signs and symptoms of the substance abused for longer time.
  • Professionals within this community frequently work in the higher pressured environment for longer hours with little or no support.
  • While more studies on this subject are being conducted, it could be said that just the constant presence of the substance near the person could easily drive them to try it.





Types of Drug Abuse in Medical Professionals:

-The addiction in medical professionals varies from common painkillers to anaesthetic medicines. Some of them are as follows:

  • Depressants:
  1. Barbiturates (Amytal, Neurbutal, phenobarbitone, etc.)
  2. Benzodiazepines (Lorazepam, Librium, Diazepam)
  3. Flunitrazepam
  • Dissociative anaesthetics:
  1. Ketamine
  2. Propofol
  • Opioids and Morphine derivatives:

Codeine, Fentanyl, morphine, opium, other opioid pain relievers like oxycodone, meperidine, hydro morphine.

  • Stimulants :

*    Amphetimine, cocaine, methamphetamine, methylphenidate

*    Anabolic Steroid: Anadrol, oxandrin

*    Antihistamines – CPM

*    Antitassive or cough syrups

Signs and symptoms of drug abuse in health professionals:

It seems to be very difficult to identify the signs and symptoms of drug abuse in medical professionals because they have knowledge about the medicines and its side effects, and it helps them to hide the signs and symptoms for longer time. But the common signs and symptoms include:

  • Reclusive behaviour: Long periods spent in self imposed isolation
  • Long unexplained absence
  • Lying and stealing, especially money and medicines
  • Involvement in the wrong side of law
  • Deteriorating relationship with family and friends
  • Obvious intoxication, deliriousness, incoherence or unconsciousness
  • Erratic mood disturbances
  • Decreased performance at work
  • Pricking marks in body

Drug Addiction as a occupational Hazard:

In medical profession drug addiction is considered as occupational hazard, since there is a high risk to get addicted to the drugs in their career. So the hospital authority and occupational health team should take all precaution to avoid drug abuse.


How to prevent drug addiction in medical professionals:

The hospital authorities should take care to avoid or to prevent the addiction in the medical staffs. The precautions include

  1. The addictive medicines should require greater storage security and should have proper stock counting.
  2. Some hospitals have measures in place to catch drug abuse among staff including urine drug tests and strict monitoring of controlled substance being taken out of stock.
  3. Education and training include addiction awareness and stress reduction practices helpful in controlling drug abuse.

May all our medical professionals be free from drug abuse, so that they can serve the society in a better ways.
“ If you are looking for Psychologists and Psychiatrists in Bangalore reach CADABAMS MINDTALK. “

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